“Draft Ohio election bill would ax day of voting, require more ID; Lawmaker says it won’t be introduced”

Cincinnati Enquirer:

A progressive group published a draft of an Ohio election overhaul that would eliminate a day of early voting, require more forms of identification to vote early in person and allow drop boxes only during a statewide emergency. 

However, Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, says that draft won’t turn into proposed legislation. 

“What you have is not what will be introduced,” said Seitz, one of several lawmakers working on changes to Ohio election law. “Drafts are drafts. That’s all they are.”  

What changes will be introduced? Seitz wouldn’t share any details, but Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, said the fact that a draft like that exists at all says something about the “misguided notions” of her Republican colleagues. 

“They have had these false notions of we need to have more strict voter ID laws because of voter fraud, and that’s just not true,” Sweeney said. “That’s a lie, and it’s part of voter suppression.” 

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“The Blue States That Make It Hardest to Vote”

The Atlantic:

If president Joe Biden wants to vote by mail next year in Delaware, he’ll have to provide a valid reason for why he can’t make the two-hour drive from the White House back to his polling place in Wilmington. Luckily for him, Biden’s line of work allows him to cast an absentee ballot: Being president counts as “public service” under state law. Most Delaware residents, however, won’t have such a convenient excuse. Few states have more limited voting options than Delaware, a Democratic bastion that allowed little mail balloting before the pandemic hit.

Biden has assailed Georgia’s new voting law as an atrocity akin to “Jim Crow in the 21st century” for the impact it could have on Black citizens. But even once the GOP-passed measure takes effect, Georgia citizens will still have far more opportunities to vote before Election Day than their counterparts in the president’s home state, where one in three residents is Black or Latino. To Republicans, Biden’s criticism of the Georgia law smacks of hypocrisy. “They have a point,” says Dwayne Bensing, a voting-rights advocate with Delaware’s ACLU affiliate. “The state is playing catch-up in a lot of ways.”

Delaware isn’t an anomaly among Democratic strongholds, and its example presents the president’s party with an uncomfortable reminder: Although Democrats like to call out Republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the Northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else.

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“Why Local Election Officials In Georgia Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law”

NPR:

Three weeks after it was signed into law, local election officials in Georgia are still trying to understand all the implications of the state’s controversial election overhaul.

In a series of interviews, election officials said that while the Republican-led measure has some good provisions, many felt sidelined as the legislation was being debated, and believe that parts of it will make Georgia elections more difficult and expensive.

One provision that particularly worries many officials is a new ability for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election management. The law empowers the state panel to take over if, in at least two elections within two years, the board finds “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.”

Tonnie Adams, chief registrar of Heard County on the Alabama state line, said this provision, coupled with another change — which replaces the secretary of state as board chair with an appointee of the General Assembly — are problematic.

“The legislature now has three seats that they appoint on the State Election Board,” he said. “We thought that that was a gross overreach of power from one branch of government.”

Joseph Kirk, Bartow County’s elections supervisor, also took issue with the hypothetical scenario.

The legislature could effectively “replace a bipartisan board [of elections] with a single appointee that has complete control over that department,” Kirk said. “So a person could come in, and hire and fire and discipline as they see fit. And as I read this law, I’m really hoping they never need to go that route.”

Both Kirk and Adams highlighted that there was already a mechanism for the state to intervene in problematic elections administration in the Georgia state code, through the courts.

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“Armed ‘quick reaction force’ was waiting for order to storm Capitol, Justice Dept. says”

WaPo:

As the Capitol was overrun on Jan. 6, armed supporters of President Donald Trump were waiting across the Potomac in Virginia for orders to bring guns into the fray, a prosecutor said Wednesday in federal court.

The Justice Department has repeatedly highlighted comments from some alleged riot participants who discussed being part of a “quick reaction force” with stashes of weapons. Defendants have dismissed those conversations as bluster. But in a detention hearing for Kenneth Harrelson, accused of conspiring with other members of the Oath Keepers militia group to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler said the government has evidence indicating otherwise.

“This is not pure conjecture,” Nestler said. In a court filing this week, he noted, prosecutors obtained cellphone and video evidence from the day before the riot showing that Harrelson asked someone about the quick reaction force. He then went to a Comfort Inn in the Ballston area of Arlington for about an hour before driving into D.C., prosecutors said. The day after the riot, surveillance video from the hotel shows him moving “what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator,” according to the court records.

In court, Nestler said another Oath Keeper carried what appeared to be a rifle under a sheet out of the hotel on Jan. 7.

“We believe that at least one quick reaction force location was here and that Mr. Harrelson and others had stashed a large amount of weapons there,” Nestler said. “People affiliated with this group were in Ballston, monitoring what was happening at the Capitol and prepared to come into D.C. and ferry these weapons into the ground team that Kenneth Harrelson was running at a moment’s notice, if anyone said the word.”

Nestler did not detail the number of guns the group is alleged to have stashed.

Judge Amit Mehta called the evidence among the “most troubling and most disconcerting” he has seen in nearly a dozen cases related to Oath Keepers.

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“Bill restricting ballot collection voted down by Montana Senate”

Helen Air:

The Montana Senate voted down a bill on Wednesday that would have restricted absentee ballot collection in Montana, with some Republicans joining Democrats who opposed the measure as creating an unnecessary barrier for mail-in voting.

House Bill 406 sought to outlaw a practice commonly used by get-out-the-vote groups, in which organizations submit mail-in ballots collected from voters. Under the measure, voters could have still let family members and legal guardians submit their ballots for them, but they would have been be required to enter their personal information into a state registry subject to public information laws.

Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, pointed out that an amendment added to the bill Friday by a Senate panel went further than just prohibiting get-out-the-vote groups from collecting voters’ ballots. Caregivers for voters with disabilities, limited mobility or medical problems would also be prohibited from turning in those ballots.

“This bill is not just unconstitutional, as I’m sure the courts will find. It’s just cruel,” Bennett said.

The bill failed on a 23-27 vote on second reading, with eight Republicans joining all 19 Democrats in voting against it. Chester Sen. Russ Tempel was one of two Republicans who spoke against the bill, saying that although “some of this stuff needs to be done,” county officials in his district were worried it would create significant costs for them. Democratic Sen. Jen Gross, of Billings, echoed that sentiment, saying that the elections administrator in Yellowstone County had estimated HB 406 would add $640,000 in costs per election.

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“Election objectors leaned on small donors after corporate PAC backlash”

Politico:

Most House Republicans who objected to the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory saw their small-dollar fundraising rise in the first three months of this year compared to the same quarter in 2019, in the latest indication that Republicans aren’t facing a major cash crunch three months after many corporate PACs vowed to stop giving to their campaigns.

The rise in small-dollar donations helped to offset a decrease in PAC donations for many members, according to an analysis of quarterly campaign finance data that was due Thursday.

While 55 of the 95 House Republican objectors whose filings POLITICO analyzed saw their fundraising decline compared with the first quarter of 2019, 40 saw it rise.

And a majority of them — 57 — saw their small-dollar fundraising go up compared with the first quarter of 2019.

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“A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots in Arizona”

WaPo:

The nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, Ariz., last fall are currently packaged in 40 cardboard shrink-wrapped boxes and stacked on 45 pallets in a county facility in Phoenix known as “the vault,” due to its sophisticated security and special fire-suppression system.

But on order of the Republican-led state Senate, the ballots and the county’s voting equipment are scheduled to be trucked away next week — handed over for a new recount and audit spurred by unsubstantiated claims that fraud or errors tainted President Biden’s win in Arizona’s largest county.

The ballots will be scrutinized not by election officials, but by a group of private companies led by a private Florida-based firm, whose owner has promoted claims that the 2020election was fraudulent and who has been cited as an expert by allies of former president Donald Trump seeking to cast doubt on the election in other parts of the country.

Trump supporters, including a lawyer who volunteered with his post-election legal team, have been raising private dollars to supplement $150,000 in taxpayer money that has been earmarked to fund the Arizona recount.

Nearly three months after Biden took office and despite dozens of courtroom losses and previous recounts, many Republicans around the countrycontinue to echoTrump’s falsehoods that the election was rigged as justification to pass new voting restrictions….

Logan was listed in December as a potential expert witness in a lawsuit brought by a voter challenging the election results in Antrim County, Mich.,according to court filings. The county has emerged as a fixation of Trump supporters after an error not long after polls closed led the county briefly to report that Biden won the heavily Republican area.

Allies of Trump claimed it showedthe election could be stolen by manipulating voting machines. In fact, the mistake was the result of human error and swiftly corrected, according to the county clerk and other Michigan officials.

When asked how Logan got involved in the lawsuit, Matthew DePerno, a Michigan lawyer handling the Antrim County case, did not answer directly, responding instead by email: “Can you answer my question, how much election fraud is acceptable to you and the Washington Post?”

Logan also confirmed to the Arizona Mirror that he wrote a document titled “Election Fraud Facts & Details” that is posted on the website of conservative attorneySidney Powell, a Trump ally who filed a number of unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the election results in various states.

In an email, Logan told the Arizona publication that he prepared the document for use by U.S. senators who sought to challenge the election results when Congress formally countednthe electoral college ballots on Jan. 6. The Mirror reported that he did not indicate who asked him to compile the document or for which senators it was intended. It is also not clear how it came to be posted on Powell’s website.

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“Houston’s expanded voting becomes target of GOP restrictions”

AP:

The nation’s next big voting battle is underway in Texas, where Republicans are trying to outlaw 24-hour polling places and drive-thru voting as options, and to make it a crime for elections officials to mail unsolicited absentee ballot applications.

All were efforts that Harris County, which includes Houston and is the state’s largest Democratic stronghold, tried last year, when the threat of the coronavirus made voting in-person more hazardous.

Republican lawmakers have been unusually explicit in zeroing in on Houston and surrounding Harris County as they push to tighten the state’s voting laws. One of the country’s largest and most racially diverse counties, Harris County rolled out new ways to vote in 2020 on a scale like nowhere else in Texas, and although there is no evidence of fraud resulting from votes cast from cars or in the dead of night, Republicans are determined to prevent it from happening again.

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“Being online isn’t enough; CISA works to get election website to move to .GOV domain”

Electionline:

While the 2020 election may have been the most secure election in our nation’s history, mis/disinformation leading up to November 3, 2020 and most certainly in the days and weeks that followed has plagued elections officials.

“Election officials continue to face an uphill battle of misinformation being spread about elections and voting,” said Trish Robertson, public relations officer for the Collier County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Office.

But the county has made a change that it hopes will help elections officials and voters alike.

“By changing our website to CollierVotes.gov, we hope voters will be confident in using our website knowing that the .gov means it belongs to an official government organization in the United States,” Robertson said.

With the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) taking over responsibility for the TLD program under the DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act of 2020, the agency is looking to support election offices and understand where it can ease their transition and get more sites migrated to the .GOV domain.

Because only US-based government organization can obtain a .GOV domain, using one shows you’re official. Anyone, malicious actors included, can get a .COM, .NET, .ORG, or .US domain.

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“How to Fix H.R. 1”

Reihan Salam in the Atlantic:

As it stands, the For the People Act aims to encourage small donations to congressional campaigns by providing a sixfold federal-government match to donations of $200 or less. Congressional candidates who opt in to this program would be forced to accept a maximum donation level of $1,000, which is significantly lower than the current maximum of $2,900. The stated objective of the program is to dampen the influence of wealthy donors by reducing the size of the largest donations and multiplying the impact of small ones, making small-donor fundraising a more lucrative proposition

The small-donor matching program, inspired by a similar effort in New York City, sounds innocuous enough. As Richard Pildes of the NYU School of Law has observed, however, there is an important difference between the two programs. While the New York City program matches only small donations made by city residents (and not those made by people living in Palm Beach, Florida, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, no doubt to the disappointment of the national-fundraising phenom Andrew Yang), the For the People Act does not limit matching funds to in-district contributions. Rather than mitigating the growing tendency of House candidates to rely on out-of-district donors over in-district donors, this provision will almost certainly increase it.

Given that congressional candidates already rely heavily on out-of-district donors, this aspect of the small-donor matching program might seem immaterial. But evidence shows that the rising influence of out-of-district donors has already led House members to be less responsive to their own constituents. In a recent article in Legislative Studies Quarterly, the political scientists Brandice Canes-Wrone and Kenneth M. Miller report that “when the national donor base prefers a different outcome than a representative’s general and primary electorates, overwhelmingly the member chooses the donor-favored position.” This could merely reflect the ideological proclivities of the members in question, whom you’d expect to be more in tune with their like-minded donors than a random assortment of their neighbors. But Canes-Wrone and Miller also found that “the higher the proportion of out-of-district donations a member has received in recent years, the more responsive they are to the preferences of the national donor class” and, relatedly, that “responsiveness to national donor opinion is higher the safer is the district.”

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“The future of political advertising is connected TV”

Axios:

Political advertising has quickly begun to migrate over to connected TV (CTV), or digital and streaming television, according to new data.

Why it matters: “If the current trends of explosive growth in CTV viewership continue, we could see a tipping point where CTV makes up nearly half of political digital ad spend as soon as 2022,” says Grace Briscoe, vice president of candidates and causes at Centro, a digital ad placement firm that works with hundreds of campaigns across the country….

This is a huge departure from the decades-long practice of campaigns buying TV ads that are targeted to local demographic market areas without much precision other than age and gender.

  • As more political ads are bought on connected TVs, more messages will be targeted much more narrowly to people based on their interests, purchasing behavior, etc. — just as they are online.
  • Another big shift will be the way these ads are purchased. Unlike traditional TV ads, which are typically purchased ahead of time for a set price, Centro says more than 60% of CTV ads are purchased via programmatic real-time bidding on the ad inventory, which complicates transparency measures.
  • “Providing information on advertiser spend isn’t a simple matter when transactions have millions of data points per minute that are also constantly changing,” Briscoe says.
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“New Sanctions On Manafort Deputy Suggest Deeper Role Of Russian Intel In 2016”

TPM:

The Biden administration slapped Konstantin Kilimnik, an assistant of Paul Manafort and alleged Russian spy, with sanctions on Thursday as it escalated economic measures against Moscow.

In announcing the move, the Treasury Department suggested that Kilimnik gave internal Trump campaign polling data to Russian intelligence during the 2016 election.

“During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” the release reads.

That goes significantly further than any previous assessment of the fate of internal Trump campaign polling data that Paul Manafort notoriously shared with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign. A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee released in August 2020 declined to draw a conclusion on what Kilimnik ultimately did with the polling data, but said that its own investigation was operating with limited information…

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“GOPers Crack Down On The Private Election Grants That Helped Avoid A Pandemic Fiasco”

Tierney Sneed for TPM:

As the global pandemic required election officials to drastically rethink how voting would work in 2020, philanthropic groups stepped up and contributed millions of dollars that paid for much of the changes needed to election infrastructure. Officials have since said that that money — particularly in light of how Congress struggled to provide enough federal election funding — helped them thwart a pandemic voting fiasco. The charity grants covered everything from election equipment to temp workers to personal protective gear, and some local election offices saw their 2020 budgets doubled by the private funding they received. 

But going forward, that kind of private bailout for U.S. elections may not be an option for many places across the country, as several Republican-controlled states consider new restrictions on whether election officials can accept charity money in the future.

Already this year, Georgia and Arizona have made proposed limits on private election funding law, and lawmakers have put forward similar measures in at least 11 other states (though some of those bills have stalled out or face vetoes from Democratic governors). The backlash to the charity election grants are part of a wave of legislation propelled by President Trump’s lies about his 2020 defeat.

“I have no doubt that the concern stems from what happened in the 2020 election,” said Rick Hasen, a UC-Irvine law professor who runs the election law blog and has written several books about election administration. “Anything that helped that election run smoothly and effectively and cleanly is now the target for attack.”

It’s unclear what effect such bans will have on election administration going forward. The pandemic was a once-in-a-generation emergency that prompted dramatic changes in how Americans vote — stretching the already tight budgets of election offices across the country. All told, election administrators across the country accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in private funding, in what was reported to have been a mad dash to fill their budget holes last fall.

The grant programs allowed many election administrators put on what one expert at NYU’s Brennan Center described as their “dream” elections. About one in every five local offices accepted the philanthropic funding.

The Republican push to prohibit private election election comes after the charity grants occupied a piece of conspiracy theories floating around the 2020 election — fueled by President Trump and his allies’ ongoing beef with Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder whose charity put up more than $400 million in grants for election administration last year.

Critics of the bills see not just a knee jerk reaction to the 2020 results, but a groundwork being laid to starve election administration coffers, which will in turn reduce voting opportunities — particularly for low-income and minority voters.

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“Pro-Yang PACs take shape as New York mayor’s race enters prime time”

It’s well-known that one of the issues to keep in mind about public-financing of elections in the United States — whether traditional forms of public financing or small-donor matching funds approaches to public financing — that there is still likely to be significant amounts spent by outside groups, including SuperPacs. Public financing does not and could not eliminate that, given that Buckley v. Valeo protects the right of independent spending. In competitive contests where a lot is perceived to be at stake, large amounts of independent spending will take place, despite the candidates receiving public financing. That is starting to happen with the NYC mayor’s race, as this Politico story reports:

A top-tier political consultant is launching an effort to boost Andrew Yang’s candidacy with a goal of raising $6 million for TV ads — one of at least three political action committees in the works to propel the current front runner to City Hall.

Lis Smith, a senior adviser to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, is in talks with potential donors and staff about forming a PAC that would operate outside the city’s strict campaign finance limits to counter negative advertising against Yang, several people familiar with the calls told POLITICO.

She has partnered with Declaration Media, a national Democratic firm founded by a trio of veteran political operatives: Admaker AJ Lenar, who worked on Obama’s presidential campaign; Meredith Kelly, communications director for Kirsten Gillibrand’s White House bid; and Trey Nix, campaign manager for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper….

At least one PAC does not share warm feelings toward Yang: Our City, a group formed by Justice Democrats’ Gabe Tobias, is beginning to raise money to counter Yang’s rise in the polls.

“We want to make sure that a progressive candidate wins the mayoral race, and make sure that no voters go in voting for a conservative, nonprogressive candidate and that’s definitely Andrew Yang,” Tobias recently told POLITICO.

These groups are the latest to promise a limitless flood of cash into the race, and campaign finance laws prohibit the PACs from coordinating with the campaigns.

Food & Water Action, an environmental organization that endorsed Stringer in January, recently formed a PAC in support of his campaign.

An independent expenditure committee backing former Obama and Bloomberg official Shaun Donovan received $2 million from the candidate’s father and earmarked even more than that, with a planned $3 million TV ad buy, according to data from AdImpact.

A PAC supporting Wall Street executive Ray McGuire has raised $4 million and booked more than $1.6 million in TV and radio spots.

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“Hundreds of Companies Unite to Oppose Voting Limits, but Others Abstain”

NYT:

Amazon, BlackRock, Google, Warren Buffett and hundreds of other companies and executives signed on to a new statement released on Wednesday opposing “any discriminatory legislation” that would make it harder for people to vote.

It was the biggest show of solidarity so far by the business community as companies around the country try to navigate the partisan uproar over Republican efforts to enact new election rules in almost every state. Senior Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, have called for companies to stay out of politics.

The statement was organized in recent days by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck. A copy appeared on Wednesday in advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Last month, with only a few big companies voicing opposition to a restrictive new voting law in Georgia, Mr. Chenault and Mr. Frazier led a group of Black executives in calling on companies to get more involved in opposing similar legislation around the country.

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“DeSantis wants voters’ signatures to match. Would his pass the test?”

Tampa Bay Times:

DeSantis’ own John Hancock has undergone a transformation during his time in government, as demonstrated by 16 of his signatures compiled by the Tampa Bay Times from publicly available sources between 2008 and now.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature variations are seen from 2008 to this year on official documents from the state and the federal government.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature variations are seen from 2008 to this year on official documents from the state and the federal government. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE | Times ]

Experts and election officials who reviewed DeSantis’ signature history for the Times said some of the modifications in his penmanship could have posed trouble for election workers, especially if constrained to one point of comparison. In a handful of instances, it’s possible the ballot could have been rejected, they said.

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“Capitol Police Told to Hold Back on Riot Response on Jan. 6, Report Finds”

NYT:

The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

In a 104-page document, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

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“Kristen Clarke faced abuse for taking on Trump. Now she’s poised to lead Justice Department’s civil rights team.”

WaPo:

On Wednesday, Clarke will appear at a Senate confirmation hearing as President Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division. She is poised to become the first woman confirmed to helm what former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. called the agency’s “crown jewel,” returning to the office where she began her professional career two decades earlier as a line attorney.

In January, appearing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris in Wilmington, Del., Clarke said the nation was “at a crossroads” and vowed to help “turn the page on hate and close the door on discrimination.”

“I see the future of America through the eyes of my son. And honestly, at times I am worried,” said Clarke, whose son, Miles, is 16. “Will he have full and equal access to the extraordinary opportunities of American life? Will he be able to embrace those opportunities in safety and dignity? Will all of America’s children?”

Her confirmation path is expected to be contentious, however. At the Lawyers’ Committee, Clarke was at the forefront of legal efforts to sue the Trump administration on voting rights, immigration, changes to the U.S. Census and the tear-gassing of protesters outside the White House last summer. She spoke out frequently against Trump and former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr.

Now, some conservatives fear that Clarke and Vanita Gupta — another civil rights lawyer, who is awaiting a Senate vote on her nomination to the Justice Department’s No. 3 position — will seek to quickly ramp up federal efforts to restructure local police departments, bolster prosecutions of hate crimes and expand voting access for minorities, and have sought to cast them as radical and extreme….

“When a civil rights lawyer has built an illustrious career in federal courts speaking out on equality and access, the question always is whether they are biased,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where Clarke worked from 2006 until 2011. “Very few talk about what makes Kristen so unique for this position in this special moment we are in. If you think about the array of civil rights legal organizations, it’s really Kristen who has been leading this very innovative work prosecuting hate groups.”

I very much support Kristen’s nomination, and believe she is a person of great integrity who is a fighter for the cause of justice for all Americans. Here’s a video from Feb. 2020 at the Hammer Museum, where Kristen and I talked about the problems facing American elections, moderated by Adam Winkler.

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“Disability Rights Advocates Press Senate for Internet Voting Option in Voting Reforms”

Steven Rosenfeld:

National disability rights organizations are urging the Senate to revise the massive House-passed election reform bill to allow an internet-based voting option for their constituents, who represent one-sixth of the national electorate, and to recognize online voting as a federally sanctioned and regulated voting technology.

Their concerns and online voting remedy have come into focus in recent months as upwards of 20 organizations representing voters with hearing, visual, cognitive and mobility impairments and sometimes requiring assistive technologies have formed a national coalition to press for more flexible voting options as Congress considers the most sweeping reforms in years.

The push for congressional approval of online voting could pose one of the most significant challenges yet for passage of the Democrat-drafted package. It pits two core constituencies—disability rights groups and cybersecurity advocates—against each other. These two cadres have clashed in the past when disability advocates successfully pressed Congress to spend billions on paperless voting machines in the early 2000s, the very systems that most states replaced after Russian interference in 2016’s election due to cybersecurity threats.

“This has been a vexing problem for a long time,” said Ion Sancho, who served for 28 years as supervisor of elections of Leon County, Florida, and retired after the 2016 election. “It’s been a touchy and difficult issue for elections administrators for as long as I can remember.”

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Today: Election Law Journal Roundtable: “Restoring Trust in the Voting Process”

April 13, 2021 | 2:00 PM EST
Join Election Law Journal for an exciting panel discussion led by Editor-in-Chief David Canon and featuring the nation’s leading experts on election administration and election law. This free event will delve into the critical issue of how to restore trust in the voting process and any fundamental changes needed in conducting our elections and counting our votes. 
Register now for the informative roundtable.
PANELISTS:
Guy-Uriel Charles
Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law,
Duke University Law School

Edward Foley
Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law;
Director, Election Law at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

Richard Hasen
Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California,
Irvine School of Law

Lisa Manheim
Charles I. Stone Associate Professor of Law,
University of Washington, School of Law

Charles Stewart III
Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Daniel Tokaji
Fred W. & Vi Miller Dean and Professor of Law,
University of Wisconsin Law School
REGISTER NOW
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New Data on Small Donors and Political Extremism

Ray La Raja is one of the leading political scientists who writes on campaign finance issues and political polarization. With his co-author, Zach Albert, he has a new working paper that examines small-donor funding patterns for moderate and extreme candidates from each party.

Their key finding on this issue: in 2018, the most extreme Democrats received 86% of their funding from small donors, while moderates received only 10%. On the Republican side, more extreme candidates received 58% of their funds from small donors while moderates received only 17% of their funding from small donors.

The abstract is here, and the working paper can be downloaded in full from the American Political Science Association website at that link, for those who have access.

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“How a Very Weird Quirk Might Let Michigan Republicans Limit Voting Rights”

NYT:

At first glance, the partisan battle over voting rights in Michigan appears similar to that of many other states: The Republican-led Legislature, spurred by former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about election fraud, has introduced a rash of proposals to restrict voting access, angering Democrats, who are fighting back.

But plenty of twists and turns are looming as Michigan’s State Senate prepares to hold hearings on a package of voting bills beginning Wednesday. Unlike Georgia, Florida and Texas, which have also moved to limit voting access, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who said last month she would veto any bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto.

Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that — usher new voting restrictions into law using a voter-driven petition process that would bypass the governor’s veto pen.

In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills; they are hoping to avoid a replay of what happened in Georgia, where the state’s leading businesses didn’t weigh in against new voting rules until after they were signed into law.

The maneuvering by both parties has turned Michigan into a test case of how states with divided government will deal with voting laws, and how Republicans in state legislatures are willing to use any administrative tool at their disposal to advance Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud and pursue measures that could disenfranchise many voters. The proposal puts new restrictions on how election officials can distribute absentee ballots and how voters can cast them, limiting the use of drop boxes, for example…

Michigan is one of just nine states that allow voters to petition lawmakers to take up a piece of legislation; if passed, the law is not subject to a governor’s veto. If the Legislature does not pass the bill within 40 days of receiving it, the measure goes before voters on the next statewide ballot. It is a rarely used procedure: Lawmakers have passed only nine voter-initiated bills since 1963, according to the state Bureau of Elections.

But last month, Ron Weiser, the state’s Republican Party chairman, told supporters in a video reported on by The Detroit News that the state party planned to subsidize a petition drive to cut Ms. Whitmer out of the lawmaking process.

To do so would require 340,047 voter signatures, or 10 percent of the vote in the last governor’s election. Mr. Weiser said that the signatures would be gathered through county committees with party funding. So far, the signature gathering has not begun, nor has the secretary of state’s office received a proposed bill needed to start a petition drive, as required by law.

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“Nevada Republicans vote to censure SOS Cegavske over voter fraud allegations”

Nevada Independent:

The Nevada Republican Party Central Committee has voted to censure the state’s GOP secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, over claims that her office failed to do its job and “put the reliability of our elections in Nevada in question.”

Members of the central committee voted to approve the censure on a 126-112 vote on Saturday during the party’s spring meeting in Carson City, sources told The Nevada Independent. The censure, which was amended before a vote, originally banned Cegavske from party endorsements or resources for “the intense dishonor her failures brought upon the Nevada Republican Party.”

A cover letter obtained by The Nevada Independent reiterates that the state party brought forward four boxes of evidence purporting to show tens of thousands of alleged examples of voter fraud that allegedly occurred in the 2020 election. The letter states that the state party saw a “surge in communications with sometimes vulgar messages” by individual Republicans saying they had left the party “claiming we did nothing to ensure voter integrity.”

“The irresponsible messaging of the Nevada Secretary of State, claiming, without investigating, that this election was error free, causing these attacks on our Nevada Republican Party,” the cover letter states.

Cegavske, in a statement Sunday morning, pushed back against the premise of the censure:

“Regrettably, members of my own political party have decided to censure me simply because they are disappointed with the outcome of the 2020 election,” she said. “My job is to carry out the duties of my office as enacted by the Nevada Legislature, not carry water for the state GOP or put my thumb on the scale of democracy. Unfortunately, members of my own party continue to believe the 2020 general election was wrought with fraud – and that somehow I had a part in it – despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief. Regardless of the censure vote today by the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee, I will continue in my efforts to oversee secure elections in Nevada and to restore confidence in our elections, confidence which has been destroyed by those falsely claiming the 2020 general election produced widespread fraud.”

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“The great capitulation of Trump’s voter fraud crusade”

Aaron Blake:

The 2020 election is a case study in how unproved claims can be weaponized. For decades, former president Donald Trump’s party warned of significant voter fraud while successfully pushing policies such as voter ID. In 2016, Trump laid a predicate for contesting an election by suggesting there was massive fraud, even in an election he had won. By 2020, when Trump lost, it culminated in a huge portion of the electorate believing a “stolen election” theory for which there is vanishingly little actual evidence.

Some have done more than raise questions, though. They, like Trump and often in search of his allies’ support, have alleged actual massive fraud.

But now they’ve been asked to account for it. And crucially and increasingly, they have backed down.

The most recent example came Friday night — a time routinely used to bury bad news. In a statement, former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova apologized to Christopher Krebs, a Trump administration official who had debunked Trump’s fraud claims and whose execution diGenova had endorsed. DiGenova had said Krebs “should be drawn and quartered” and “taken out at dawn and shot.”

“On November 30, 2020, I appeared on the ‘Howie Carr Show.’ During the show, I made regrettable statements regarding Christopher Krebs, which many interpreted as a call for violence against him,” diGenova said. He added that “today I reiterate my public apology to Mr. Krebs and his family for any harm my words caused. Given today’s political climate, I should have more carefully expressed my criticism of Mr. Krebs, who was just doing his job.”

DiGenova’s apology refers to a past apology made on Newsmax’s airwaves, but back then he went even further in downplaying his comments. He maintained at the time that it was a poorly chosen joke and said that he apologized “for any misunderstanding of my intentions.”

The statement very notably comes months after Krebs announced in December that he was suing diGenova for defamation.

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“These Minnesotans didn’t know they challenged the election until months later”

Star-Tribune:

The legal saga involving failed efforts to undo the 2020 election recorded an unusual new chapter recently in Ramsey County.

For more than three months, at least one of several lawsuits contesting the election’s outcome in Minnesota carried the names of citizens who were unaware that they had been named as plaintiffs in the case.

Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro slapped Minneapolis attorney Susan Shogren Smith with a $10,000 fine after concluding she “bamboozled” three Twin Cities voters into being part of the unsuccessful litigation.

According to testimony at a virtual hearing last month, plaintiff Corinne Braun described her shock upon searching for her name in a court records database only to find she was part of a lawsuit against Secretary of State Steve Simon and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. “All of this was nothing I wanted anything to do with,” Braun said.

The suit was one of numerous cases filed by Smith on behalf of the Minnesota Election Integrity Team, a group assembled after the election. Smith filed lawsuits against Simon and Democratic members of Congress.

Smith’s lawsuits claimed “countless irregularities” in the election but offered no evidence of widespread fraud and failed to garner court action. No state or federal court challenge to the 2020 election results has produced such evidence. U.S. intelligence, federal law enforcement and election officials have verified the integrity of the vote.

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“The Electoral Reform Imperative to Address Our Polarization Crisis”

April 14 event:

The U.S. has an outdated election system that leaves Americans unrepresented while the country faces a polarization crisis. Most countries have chosen an electoral system very different to the one used in national elections in the United States. The system used in each country varies, but proportional systems are widely used. The U.S could switch to what we call “proportional ranked choice voting,” where the ballot is a ranked choice voting ballot but the outcome gives voters even better representation.

Join us for a discussion on how electoral reform can address the United State’s polarization crisis with FairVote President and CEO Rob Richie along with Harvard Professor Danielle Allen and Kevin Kosar of the American Enterprise Institute, plus watch a pre-recorded discussion with Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute.

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“Defying Republicans, Big Companies Keep the Focus on Voting Rights; A coalition of 60 law firms has joined business leaders about the need for companies to use their clout to oppose state legislation that would make it harder to vote.”

NYT:

As corporate America continues to push back against a wave of restrictive voting laws under discussion across the United States, Big Law is joining the fight.

A coalition of 60 major law firms has come together “to challenge voter suppression legislation and to support national legislation to protect voting rights and increase voter participation,” said Brad Karp, the chairman of the law firm Paul Weiss and the organizer of the group, which has not been formally announced.

Mr. Karp said the coalition would “emphatically denounce legislative efforts to make voting harder, not easier, for all eligible voters, by imposing unnecessary obstacles and barriers on the right to vote.”

Many of Wall Street’s most powerful firms are also part of the effort, including Simpson Thacher; Skadden Arps; Akin Gump; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Ropes & Gray; Sullivan & Cromwell; Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Wachtell Lipton.

“We plan to challenge any election law that would impose unnecessary barriers on the right to vote and that would disenfranchise underrepresented groups in our country,” Mr. Karp said.

The firms will work with the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit organization, to identify laws that it might challenge in court. Mr. Karp said that could include challenging the voting law that Republicans passed in Georgia last month, and which set off a national debate over voting rights.

“It puts legislators on notice that if there are laws that are unconstitutional or illegal they will face pushback from the legal community,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center. “This is beyond the pale. You’re hearing that from the business community and you’re hearing it from the legal community.”

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Can Climate Change Affect Redistricting?

Just ran across this story on the 12 most gerrymandered House districts, according to some experts The Fulcrum surveyed in 2019. Here is the comment on this district, OH 9, from Jason Fierman, founder and managing director of The Redistrict Network:

Ohio’s so-called “snake by the lake” 9th District, which stretches from Toledo to Cleveland, is so thin and strangely shaped that they actually drove to Lake Erie to monitor sea levels with respect to the contiguity of the district. They are concerned that climate change could make the district non-contiguous and consequently altered in the next round of redistricting.

I don’t know if this comment is tongue-in-cheek or not.

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8th CA County Top Election Officer Resigns Since November, Sign of a National Problem

This is a big problem (and not just in CA):

Now, months before a likely recall election followed by the 2022 campaign season where political maps will be redrawn and voters will need help navigating the changes, California finds itself in the midst of an election officer exodus.

‘Worn down and tired’

Foote stepped down Friday as Inyo’s chief elections officer, the eighth registrar across California to resign since last November’s election. At least one more registrar is expected to resign in the coming weeks. Some have been on the job for almost three decades.

“I think, if anything, it’s just a sense of being worn down and tired,” Foote said about her decision to leave. “In 2020, we found ourselves working seven days a week, months on end, under tremendous pressure.”

Conducting a presidential election during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy. State leaders required every registered voter to be sent a ballot in the mail, and for those voters who participated in person, there were detailed public health requirements that necessitated new and extensive training for poll workers.

Foote, who has accepted a job with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, contracted COVID-19 just after the primary last March and had to finish tallying votes while sick at home.

While she said the decision to leave was about more than just the challenges of running elections in California, other registrars and voting advocates said the exodus of so many skilled leaders should serve as a warning.

“We have all lived through the pandemic, of course, but folks administering elections are under even more stress because of the lies that spread like mad before and especially after election day in November,” said Cathy Darling Allen, the registrar of voters in Shasta County who has kept a tally of all of her counterparts who have left. “Sincerely, I was called a liar more times over the two-month period around the election than in my entire life.”

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“Scoop: Trump campaign boosted by unsuspecting state GOPs”

Axios:

Federal regulators are probing financial reporting discrepancies stemming from an effort to funnel $75 million through state Republican parties to the national GOP effort to reelect Donald Trump, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: In comments to Axios and filings with the Federal Election Commission, some state party officials seemed unaware of their roles.

What they’re saying: “I am not sure what report your (sic) looking at please point me toward it or forward the link to it to me,” Vermont GOP chair Deb Billado told Axios when asked about nearly $400,000 sent to the state party by the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee last year and immediately routed to the RNC.

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“Polls show majority of Republicans mistakenly think the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate”

Harry Enten for CNN:

Following every election from 2004 to 2016, the Pew Research Center queried voters on whether they were confident that the votes around the country were counted accurately.

The voters for the losing candidate in those elections had a lot more faith than Trump voters had in the results of the 2020 election. In every election from 2004 to 2016, between 8% and 14% of the voters of the losing candidate said they had no confidence at all that the election was legitimate. In 2016, just 11% of Hillary Clinton voters were not at all confident.

This means Republicans are somewhere between 40 points and 50 points more likely this time around to say they had no confidence in the results than the backers of any losing candidate in recent times.

The big difference this time around is that the losing candidate openly cast doubt on the results over and over again.

Republicans’ doubts come despite a clear margin for Biden in the swing states that made the difference. Trump would have had to have won at least three states he lost by more than 10,000 votes (one he lost by more than 20,000) to merely keep Biden from reaching 270 electoral votes.

Trump’s margins over Clinton in the pivotal swing states were similar to Biden’s over Trump’s in terms of percentage points, but Clinton voters didn’t have anywhere near the same doubt of the results.

Trump’s false allegations have certainly shifted the way Republicans think about who should be able to vote. Last month, Pew asked Americans whether citizens should prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time or whether everything should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote.

Today, a mere 28% of Republicans say everything should be done to make it easy for citizens to vote. That compares with 71% who say citizens should have to prove they really want to vote.

Back in 2018 (before Trump lost), the split was far closer at 48% of Republicans who believed voting should be made easy as easy as possible to 51% who thought voters should have to prove it.

(Democrats, by comparison, have barely moved on the question with 85% arguing voting should be made as easy as possible. That was 84% in 2018.)

The only thing that has really changed between 2018 and 2021 was the 2020 election.

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Please Take This Survey to Help Plan the Future of the Election Law Blog (Survey Closes April 18)

[Bumping to the top]

On January 21, I announced a slowdown at ELB, as I finished a book project, worked on the ALI Torts: Remedies project, and undertook my courses with 200 students this semester.

I am now considering the future of the blog, and whether and how I can continue to support and sustain it.

To that end, it would be very helpful to me to learn about how people use ELB, what they want to see more of and less of, and how things can improve. Survey responses are anonymous.

The survey is here, and it will remain open through April 18. Thanks for reading and completing the survey!

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“How the corporate backlash to Georgia’s new voting law is shaping other fights around the country over access to the polls”

WaPo:

The fast-moving drama reveals just how powerful and combustible the issue of voting has become in U.S. politics — and how fraught it appears to be for Republicans contending with the legacy of Trump’s attacks on the 2020 election. Even as many of his supporters continue to embrace his relentless claims that the vote was stolen, those false accusations have also primed his opponents to vigorously challenge further efforts to undermine the vote.

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“Supreme Court’s Bridgegate Ruling Casts Shadow on Federal Fraud Cases”

WSJ:

A Supreme Court decision that threw out the fraud convictions of two political aides to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is rippling through other white-collar cases, possibly buttressing appeals by other defendants who say federal prosecutors have become too aggressive in using antifraud laws to go after dishonest conduct.

In the New Jersey scandal known as Bridgegate, the high court ruled last year that a political-retribution scheme that involved crippling a town with traffic jams didn’t constitute federal fraud. The decision already has prompted the reversal of most charges in a high-profile insider-trading case, and could hurt prosecutors’ efforts to preserve convictions in a case that exposed ethical failures at one of the Big Four accounting firms.

At issue in both cases is when underhanded conduct may be considered criminal fraud. The Supreme Court affirmed in the New Jersey case that federal fraud charges apply only when a scheme seeks to obtain money or property by deceptive means.

In the insider-trading case, Manhattan federal prosecutors said on April 2 that because of the New Jersey case, most of the charges should be wiped out. They recommended to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the entire case against Christopher Worrall, one of the defendants, be dismissed. Mr. Worrall, a former technical adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was accused of sharing secrets about government-funding levels with a consultant working for a hedge fund.

In the same case, prosecutors also agreed to toss out insider-trading and theft charges against two hedge-fund traders and David Blaszczak, the political-intelligence consultant whom they allege passed on the information from Mr. Worrall.

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Trump Appears to Have a New Zuckerberg Variation in His Lies About the Election Being Stolen

Per the NYT:

As donors and G.O.P. leaders looked on Saturday night, Mr. Trump quickly cast aside his prepared remarks and returned to his false claims that the election was stolen from him. He referenced “Zuckerberg” and $500 million spent on a “lockbox” from which, he said, every vote was marked, according to remarks described by an attendee. “Biden. Saintly Joe Biden,” he said….

Late in his remarks, Mr. Trump praised the crowd that attended his rally on Jan. 6, admiring how large it was, the attendee said. Mr. Trump added that he wasn’t “talking about the people that went to the Capitol,” though hundreds of the rally attendees left the rally at the Ellipse to go to the Capitol.

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“New York GOP groups sue over Working Families petitions”

Times-Union:

County Republican organizations around the state have filed lawsuits trying to remove Democrats from the state Working Families Party line ahead of the June primaries.

The move comes as local Republicans in at least three counties have also tried to co-opt the WFP line – a move they made after other minor parties they relied on to boost their voting totals in elections were booted from the ballot under new state election thresholds.

Lawsuits in state Supreme Court have been filed in Albany, OnondagaMonroe, Niagara, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties, according to court records and media reports. The lawsuits allege that the Working Families Party’s executive committee did not properly authenticate petitions from Democrats seeking to run on the WFP line.

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North Carolina: “Editorial: Find ways to ease voting, not restrict it”

WRAL editorial:

State Sen. Paul Newton may have tried to talk a good game in the Senate Election Committee saying Senate Bill 326, “The Elections Integrity Act” was nothing more than an effort to “shore up … leakage around the edges of our system.”

But numbers tell the story. The leakage he and his fellow Republicans are concerned about has nothing to do with election integrity but everything to do with helping GOP candidates.

Both nationally, and particularly in North Carolina, voting in the 2020 elections was conducted fairly, openly and with few problems under the most challenging of circumstances. Election turnout – both in total voters and share of eligible voters – was the most ever. Every properly cast ballot was collected and counted accurately.

What happened in 2020 – while based on the state results in particular – should have left Republicans with no complaints. But there obviously was concern that mail-in ballots didn’t tilt far enough toward the GOP.

The mail-in ballot share of all votes cast skyrocketed to 18%. Part pandemic related but also many voters found it a more convenient.

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“CEOs Plan New Push on Voting Legislation”

WSJ:

Dozens of chief executives and other senior leaders gathered on Zoom this weekend to plot what several said big businesses should do next about new voting laws under way in Texas and other states.

Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express Co. , and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., urged the leaders to collectively call for greater voting access, according to several people who attended. Messrs. Chenault and Frazier cautioned businesses against dropping the issue and asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting, the people said.

A statement could come early this week, the people said, and would build on one that 72 Black executives signed last month in the wake of changes to Georgia’s voting laws. Mr. Chenault told executives on the call that several leaders had signaled they would sign on, including executives at PepsiCo Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Hess Corp. , among others, according to the people. PayPal confirmed it has signed the statement. PepsiCo, T. Rowe Price and Hess didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

As more companies and their leaders have spoken out on the issue in recent weeks, their stands have drawn the ire of Republican state and federal legislators who say companies are miscasting the matter and shouldn’t act as shadow lawmakers. Meanwhile, progressive activists and others who oppose the laws have said that the actions leaders are taking aren’t strong enough. Many CEOs now feel a duty, or pressure, to make their views explicitly known to employees and others, executive advisers said.

Plenty of companies remain wary of wading into politically charged areas. One executive from a Fortune 100 consumer-products company said board members, employees and vendors are pressing leaders to speak out, but doing so could put a bull’s-eye on the company.

“It’s really a no-win situation from a corporate standpoint,” the executive said.

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